Saturday, April 18, 2015

Hymns of St. Ephrem: Nisibene Hymn-Resurrection of the Dead


Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen! Continuing on the previous blog the following is another hymn written by St. Ephrem the Syrian (306-373). The previous hymn was number 35. This hymn is 37. Enjoy!

Hymn 37 has the theme of the resurrection of the dead connected with reference to Ezekiel’s prophecy:

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Death shed tears over Sheol seeing that her treasuries were despoiled, and he said: “Who has stolen your riches?” .. .

“I saw that Ezekiel in the valley, who resurrected the dead as he was bidden. And I saw the bones in disarray brought into motion. There was a commotion of the bones in Sheol, for a bone sought its companion and would reunite with its pair. And no one asked there as well as no one was asked: Are those bones indeed going to be brought back to life?’ For without questioning the voice of Jesus, the Ruler of Creation, has resurrected them." 

“Sheol was afflicted as she saw them (The entire hymn is a monologue by Death). She cried for Lazarus, as he abandoned [her]. Inside and outside there was weeping; for his sisters wept for him as he came down to me to the grave, and I wept for him because he left it. Upon his death there was a great mourning among the living, and in Sheol there was a great mourning as he rose.”

“Now I also have learned the taste of grief of those who bemoan their loved ones. If dead are so pleasing to Sheol, Still more, how much they should have been loved by their fathers! . . .”

“That suffering (hasha) which I bring to humans, which afflicts them because of their loved ones, eventually, has befallen me. For when the dead will leave Sheol everyone will undergo resurrection. Only I alone will undergo torture. And truly, who will be able to endure this which still lies ahead of me? For I will see Sheol in solitude (balhudeh), for that voice which destroyed the tombs, has emptied it. And he took out the dead that there remained.”

“When one reads prophets and learns about fair wars, one who meditates upon the life of Christ, learns charity and compassionate mercy. And if he thinks about Jesus as a stranger (nukhraya), (This term is used in relation to false gods as opposed to the true God) he offends me. No other key would match the gates of Sheol, except for the key of the Creator who has opened them. He will open them [again] at his second coming.”

“Who can knit the bones together, if not the power which has created them? The parts of the body who can join if not the hand of the Maker? What will restore the bodies but the finger of the Creator? The one who treated them and turned into [dust] and destroyed, only he is able to renew and resurrect. No other God can enter and restore the creatures which do not belong to him.” (Literally, who are not his!)

“If there be any other divine power existing, I would be very glad if it could visit me. It would go down into the entrails of Sheol and learn that there is only one God. Mortals who erred and preached about many gods, are now bound in Sheol for me, and their gods were never saddened because of them. I know only one God and only his prophets and apostles I acknowledge.”

The following hymn is found in Metropolitan Hilarion, Christ the Conqueror of Hell: The Descent into Hades from an Orthodox Perspective, 117-119.  

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